Tiberius (42 B.C.-37 A.D.)Tiberius (42 B.C.-37 A.D.) - Whereas, it's possible to have an able ruler, like Augustus Caesar, who has absolute power, more often than not, a nation is likely to get someone like Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius, and the several emperors who immediately followed him, is a good example of why having power vested into a single individual is usually a bad idea. He was the first emperor after Augustus, and he reigned from 14 A.D. until his own death in 37. During Augustus' reign, Tiberius was a very successful general, conquering the European territories of Dalmatia, Pannonia and Raetia. He became successor when Augustus married his mother, Livia in 39 B.C. and adopted Tiberius as his son. As the biological son of Tiberius Claudius Nero, he was a member of the Claudian family. His adoption into the Julian family and marriage to his step-sister, Julia, would unite the two families and create the Julio-Claudian Dynasty. He was a reluctant heir, even going so far as to retire to the island of Rhodes in 6 B.C. But when Augustus' grandsons, Giaus and Lucius, and next in line of succession, died prematurely, Tiberius was compelled to return to Rome and accept succession in order to prevent a potential violent transition.


While the republic was dead, the senate was never dissolved as a means of upholding the appearance that it still held some power. In reality, it merely existed as a means of recognizing the ruler of Rome. And upon the death of Augustus in 14 A.D., it officially recognized Tiberius as Princeps (first citizen), as it had done for Octavian. This was a term used for the emperor at this early period in the empire to make it seem as though the senate still held the power and was simply transferring it onto a single individual. In this era, the empire was known as the Principate. Towards the end of the empire (sometime around the reign of Diocletian), the facade was officially abolished and Rome became known as a Dominate. Early in his reign, Tiberius had to contend with his nephew (later adopted son) and hugely popular general, Germanicus. He was everything Tiberius was not. Outgoing, charismatic and beloved by the Roman citizens. When he died mysteriously in 19 A.D., many speculated that Tiberius had him poisoned out of jealousy. Regardless of whether or not he was responsible for Germanicus' death, Tiberius committed his share of atrocities. He was known to execute people for minor offenses, partially due to an unbalanced mental state and partially out of fear that he was being targeted by enemies. When he died in 37 of natural causes, there was much rejoicing and celebration in the streets of Rome. Little did they know that an even worse emperor, Caligula, was waiting in the wings.